The space above the Sunnyside Yards railroad complex could contain a hospital, affordable housing buildings, a school, a public space or some combination of those to form a new community.
At this point, Community Board 2 isn’t sure what could be built, but members approved urging Borough President Melinda Katz to begin a feasibility study regarding “decking,” or building a platform above the railroad tracks, in a public meeting Thursday — a plan that has long been floated around by top city officials.
Board chair Joseph Conley brought the matter up in the meeting for a vote, even though he wasn’t sure how much square footage of space the area would create and couldn’t pinpoint future challenges.
However, he suggested the project would cover just the Long Island City end of the yards —the southwest portion from about Jackson Avenue and 21st Street eastward to either the Thomson Avenue or Queens Boulevard walk-overs.
Some members complained that creating more housing in the area would increase the need for public services and infrastructure.
But Conley reasoned that it would be good to explore the ability to use the space, especially for affordable housing, as land prices continue to shoot upward in nearby communities such as Long Island City.
“There are a lot of things that have to be discussed: transportation of course, traffic, schools, all the things that we live with… but at least it starts the dialogue to say what if,” Conley said. “And that’s exactly what we did on Hunter’s Point South.”
The 167-acre Sunnyside Yards is owned by Amtrak and shared with the LIRR and NJ Transit. The MTA is working on its East Side Access project at the railroad complex, which will connect the LIRR to a new station beneath Grand Central Terminal.
Plans concerning decking over the yards for development have been discussed in the past. The site was included in New York City’s Olympic bid in 1997, according to the Regional Planning Association, an urban research group.
Also, Daniel Doctoroff, former deputy mayor for economic development and rebuilding under former Mayor Michael Bloomberg, had a city planning team conduct an analysis of the possibility for decking and development over Sunnyside Yards.
But whether this new study will lead to a development is still up in the air.